The work to bring an product idea or a sketch into fruition as a completed waterproof garment is incredibly complex and involves many skilled partners. It really does take a village!
We are proud to have partnered with a world leading manufacturer in Thailand to cut, sew and finish our rainwear. This manufacturer is at the forefront of innovative and sustainability-focussed manufacturing globally, and they manufacture for some of the world's leading luxury brands.
Their environmental programmes cover many areas of operations including Greenhouse Gas Intensity reduction (where they achieved a 19% drop in their footprint between 2009 and 2017) and waste reduction efforts. One waste reduction project they run re-processes cotton collected as scraps from cutting tables into a new usable fabric (interestingly, offcuts from 16 shirts create enough re-constituted fabric to make one additional shirt!). Their ultimate target is to send zero waste to landfill from their production facilities. This partner is a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and uses SAC's Higg Index as the cornerstone of their sustainability strategy.
The below photo is of a member of our partner's Made-to-Measure team on our visit in June 2018.
Our waterproof fabrics are suppled by Taiwanese and Japanese partners. Our fabrics are prepared in bluesign® System Partner mills (Bluesign® is a Switzerland-based organisation that ensures fabrics are made with processes and materials that are safe for the environment, safe for workers and safe for end customers).
The below photo was taken on our recent visit to our Taiwanese fabric partner – the fabric shown is white 'greige' just prior to dying.
Alarmingly, the Ellen McArthur Foundation has found that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the sea (by weight) on our current trajectory. As part of Okewa's response to this issue we feel wherever we have an opportunity to reuse material already in circulation, instead of extracting new raw material, we should absolutely do this. Reusing plastic waste in circulation has become one of those opportunities for us.
Our Recycled Line launched in July 2018 and is manufactured from a fabric made from 100% recycled plastic PET bottles. The process from discarded bottles to luxurious rainwear is quite a long one! We're using a two-layer cloth with a technical membrane backing and a face fabric that is 100% recycled. We've developed the fabric with our Taiwanese partner.
The Microfibre Issue
Microfibres shedding off synthetic clothing (e.g. polyester and nylon fabrics) and entering the environment is a significant issue for our industry and planet.
As a producer of rainwear, one of the challenges precluding us from avoiding synthetic fibres altogether is that it's important for our coats to perform well and be waterproof, and performance rainwear fabric options tend to be dominated by synthetic fibres. That said, we are continuing to explore natural fibre options in search of any alternatives that can meet our performance requirements.
For polyester or nylon raincoats, as the vast majority of microfibre shedding occurs during the washing process, one recommendation we make is to wash your coat as minimally as possible (and to just spot-wash where this will suffice).
One other response to the issue can also be to invest in a front-loader washing machine. Research commissioned by Patagonia on this issue found that front loader washing machines can cause up to 5x less microfibre shedding than top loaders.
It has also been found that low quality synthetic fabrics shed more microfibres than higher quality and better-made fabrics, and we are currently investigating any steps we're able to take when sourcing our polyester or nylon fabrics that will result in less microfibre shedding from resultant garments.